Taming ‘Barzilla’ and other Sordid Tales from Ed Decker
by Sebastian Ruiz
Nov 24, 2006 | 1730 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The bar scene brings out some of the most interesting personalities in town every weekend – any bartender can testify to this phenomenon with countless tales of barfly antics. One such witness to debauchery is Ed Decker, local bartender and author of San Diego CityBeat’s “Sordid Tales” column, who has compiled life lessons and late-night accounts into the new book “Barzilla and Other Psalms.”

Decker will read from his book on Wednesday, Nov. 29, at the Museum of the Living Artist in Balboa Park. The evening will open with music by Blackbirdz, and performance artists Pruitt Igoe will also be featured. The features begin at 6:30 p.m., with open mic to follow. Admission is $5.

Published through Puna Press, Barzilla is a collection of what Decker calls “hack poetry,” with cover artwork by David Lonteen. Each poem stays true to the voice Decker has developed through his CityBeat opinion column. His humorous and often morbid prose speaks to life’s truths about death, romance and a dog named Rusty who sends postcards from Europe.

Decker moved to San Diego from Monroe, N.Y., in 1986. He worked as a bouncer, deejay and emcee at The Bacchanal. His passion for writing and music led him to start writing professionally for Slamm magazine in 1988.

Decker has written for the San Diego Reader, the San Diego Union-Tribune, No Cover magazine, Modern Drunkard and Smash magazine. During his journalism career, he has interviewed musicians and artists such as Henry Rollins and Gary Numan, he said. However, it was his time as a bartender and master of ceremonies that provided fodder for what would become the CityBeat staple. “Sordid Tales of a Bartender in Heat” first appeared in monthly music magazine Slamm in March of 1997, according to Decker’s Web site, www.edwindecker.com.

The column originally told of bar scene misadventures and comedic stories, Decker said. When San Diego CityBeat absorbed Slamm, the column expanded its scope to include local and national topics, and the title was shortened to “Sordid Tales.”

“It became a column about the world, highly satirical, on the fringe [since] bartenders tend to be fringe citizens,” Decker said.

Through his column, Decker has tackled issues such as gay marriage, eminent domain and religion. He unabashedly pokes fun at the absurdity of society with a dry wit that has made him the object of death threats from time to time, he said. An advocate of individual liberties and free speech, Decker pushes the boundaries of social issues. When most commentators would handle sensitive topics like homophobia with surgical tact, Decker’s affinity for political incorrectness reads like a refreshing dose of blunt force trauma.

The Nov. 2 column pushed the envelope with a searing, insulting, inflammatory and profane rant against President George W. Bush and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist for embedding an anti-online gambling measure in a port security bill. But behind the incendiary language lies a well-crafted message, which is the whole point of the column – it’s not just fluff.

His liberal viewpoints have gotten him in trouble with the Anti- Defamation League, he said. Yet getting people to think is what Decker is all about.

“I would rather you hate [my work] than just not care about the issues,” Decker said.

He has recently reduced his “Sordid Tales” workload from a weekly to a biweekly column to accommodate his other writing endeavors, including “Barzilla.” It has given him the time he needed to finish his two novels, he said.

However, Decker hasn’t completely left the bar scene for the book club. He can still be found working as the karaoke emcee on Tuesdays at 710 Beach Club in Pacific Beach. In an Oct. 18 “Sordid Tales” column, Decker remarked how he has given up drinking alcohol in an effort to lose weight. Except for a few occasions – such as a New Year’s tradition – Decker said he won’t drink until he accomplishes some of his personal and professional goals.

For more information on “Barzilla,” visit www.puna

press.com. To read “Sordid Tales,” visit www.sdcitybeat.com.
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